Motivation behind Freshet

Now we’ve got the alpha release out it’s worth talking a little bit about the motivation behind Freshet. So, the core principle is about managing unread feed items and making it easier to not get overwhelmed. This came out of a number of personal instances of starting using other feed readers, adding a bunch of feeds, and then having a busy week and coming back to 1000 unread entries.

This is bad for a variety of reasons. Firstly, most of the time you don’t have enough spare time to read 1000 unread entries (I’ve done it, but it’s rare). If they’d just trickled in say 10 at a time, that’s a whole other matter, but seeing them as one big lump tends to seem like a lot of work. Secondly, even if you do have the time, it’s kinda boring. You’re probably skimming through a lot faster than usual to try and deal with the backlog, skipping things you might have read on slow days, trying to avoid accidentally dropping the really good articles, etc, etc.

Most of the problem here is that the articles are unsorted. Or to be more exact, the sorting mechanisms most RSS readers have are “date” and “feed”. Maybe some tagging support if the articles have some, but that’s pretty variable. Freshet was born from the notion that what you really want is a “most interesting unread” sort, which is hard to do, but that’s something the More/Less buttons and our algorithms provide you with. What that means is that pile of 1000 unread entries is fine, as we’ve got it organised with the best at the top. In fact, 1000s of unread might be your default state, because you’re only reading the best entries and skipping a lot. We deliberately do not list the unread counts as they’d take away from that experience.

The other problem is that feed quality varies a lot. Some (often the personal feeds of someone you really admire) are gems of perfection, with every entry beautifully crafted. Many are a mix - some topics you want all the info on, some you don’t care about so much, some you want to discard. The feeds of any major newspaper are usually a case in point, as trying to appeal to a wide enough base of people to get subscribers means there’s always going to be articles you as a specific individual do not care about.

Now, if you have a conventional feed reader, you need to make a decision about what quality level you’re willing to wade through. Perfect gems, sure; more variable ones, maybe; mostly crap, but once in a while some beauty, probably not. Freshet lets you avoid that entirely, by just throwing them all into the mix and we’ll filter out the best. If you think one feed in particular is getting buried under everything else, your Feeds tab is right there and can be used to browse one particular feed. In that case, give us a bit of “More/Less” feedback, and it should rise to the appropriate level of your feeds.

The Tags tab is an extra tool we have for the cases where you’ve got specific interests (i.e. tags) that are highly scored in their own right, but aren’t quite at the top of the pile. This tab also lets you have a bit of variety in your reading if you want to focus in on something for a moment.

We’re constantly looking at new ways and tools to help you explore the problem of your unread feeds, and we hope you’re enjoying what you’ve seen so far. Happy New Year to you all!